Is Saturday the Best Book on EQ?

Last Updated Mar 31, 2009 11:30 PM EDT

One of my major criticisms of the Salovey-Meyer model is that it has too much focus is on transient emotions and too little time is spent on temperament, which is our genetic predisposition to reacting emotionally. Only about 3% of The Emotionally Intelligent Manager is spent on this topic. I have addressed this issue in a previous blog but this week I read a book that captures this difference beautifully.

There was a wonderful article in The New Yorker (23 February 2009) about the English author Ian McEwan, titled The Background Hum. Of course being a fervent adherent of the Humm-Wadsworth the title caught my eye. I must confess that having read Atonement and getting bogged down in the march to Dunkirk I was put off reading any more of McEwan's work. I could not have been more wrong.

The New Yorker article particularly praises Saturday and I decided I would read it. It is a brilliant work and perhaps the best book on emotional intelligence that I have read.

Published in 2005, Saturday charts the day of a 48-year-old London neurosurgeon called Henry Perowne. The novel is set in Fitzroy Square, London (where the author lives) on Saturday, 15th February 2003, against the backdrop of the huge demonstration against the invasion of Iraq. The hero, Perowne has planned a series of jobs and pleasures culminating in a family dinner in the evening. The book covers a number of diverse topics such as should the British go fight with Bush in Iraq? What do you do when your children reach adulthood? How do you handle your drunken father-in-law?

However, the true brilliance of the book is how describes Perowne's transient emotions as he meets a number of situations compared the direction of his temperament. I would describe Perowne as an Engineer with high Normal (go here for an explanation). He is very adept with his hands, sees life as a series of projects (even relationships with his family) and is indifferent to his dress when he goes to play squash with his anesthetist. At the end of novel his wife picked him beautifully. "Even when things were desperate, I could see that you were always planning how to get out. That is why I love you."

It is well recognised by his peers that McEwan writes superbly and in Saturday he is in the top of his form. However it is how McEwan describes how Perowne handles his various emotions that is the genius of Saturday. If you have read Saturday I would love to hear your opinion.